Oh my god, someone is still doing it. Thank you very much! May the third celebrates James Brown´s birthday and two days later bio-pic Get On Up is due on DVD and Blu-ray. Jamell Richardson plays the part of mr Brown´s genre defining guitarist Jimmy Nolen.
I was born in Meridian, Mississippi April 13th 1988 and I was raised in Alabama, which is about thirty five miles from Meridian in a small town called Butler, Alabama. I grew up like any typical black artist that came out of the church. My grandmother was a pastor and she bought me my first guitar aged two so that’s when I started playing, was at aged two. My mother sings and she is a pastor in the church. My dad was a singer in a quartet gospel group and I think their name was The Morning Stars Of Mobile Alabama. I had a gospel quartet with my brothers and I was the lead singer. I am the youngest brother out of three brothers and we called ourselves The Richardson Brothers. That was in my real young days when I was about eight years old and we would go around different churches singing, so that’s how the whole lead singer thing started for me.
When I was aged thirteen I stared to being more interactive with different music styles. The first sound of real blues music for me was B.B. King The Thrill Is Gone and as a guitarist once you hear that guitar its like, oh my God what is this? I had been playing guitar from an early age as well as singing, and music was always there, bass guitar and drums which I was playing in the church as well as singing. So growing up, and around the time I was about thirteen, I started recording in professional studios for different people, playing guitar on different things. I recorded with a local artist called Michelle Thompson and a gospel group out of North Carolina and many others, and I guess you could say I was doing pretty well as a guitarist at that age. As time went on, like any other teen I went to school, still playing and playing talent shows and winning them. I lived in Butler till the age of ten, and then aged ten I moved to Mobile, Alabama which is where I reside now. So my high school was Alma Bryant High School and I was always involved in something musically. I didn’t become a full time musician until 2010. Before I became a full time musician, I was doing recording sessions and playing for local bands and stuff like that.
One particular blues artist I was playing for, his name is Jimmy J and he is a Southern soul/ blues artist and I did some recordings with Paul Beasley And The Gospel Keynotes and I played with Rance Allen and Donnie McClurkin. I was there as a guitarist. I often tell people that as a musician there are always plenty of musicians that are great musicians, but it is all about your attitude as a person, if you have this humble spirit about yourself. You can’t walk around thinking you’re the baddest thing in the world, because nobody is going to use you. So I think it is my attitude and humbleness that has taken me this far. As a musician I guess my name travelled around the circuit and I guess all that’s why I got to be with such artists, and other musicians mention your name, so it’s a kind of ‘word of mouth’ thing. I had a day job back than and when I graduated I had two day jobs, one was working for the street department of Bayou La Batre, Alabama where I cut grass and stuff and my other job was working at the Chevron oil refinery as an insulator. I didn’t go to college, I hated school although I graduated. I was still playing music during all this time.
My manager who is a good friend, I met him about three years ago and we joined forces. I am part of a recording studio as well, called Underground Talent Center LLC, which is in Moss Springs, Mississippi so all of my recording stuff is now in house. The recording studio happened about a year and a half ago. Since then I’m producing for different artists. One of my biggest breaks for me was when I went on the road professionally and toured with Mel Waiters. I toured with Mel for about two years from 2011 until October 2013. How that came about was the Jimmy J guy who I was playing with, he was signed to Mel Waiters’ label and Jimmy’s work got slow and Mel needed a guitarist and Jimmy told me to play with Mel and I toured with him, like I said, for two years and I became one of the highlights of his show. He would bring me out to the front and feature me. So I really got a big name behind that, as well as gaining experience playing in front of all those people across the world.
So in October 2013 that’s when the James Brown movie came into the picture. The movie, which is called Get On Up was one of the biggest things that has happened to me because that experience made me realise the gift that I have as an individual. I’ve always tried to be the side man or the guy in the background, but really and truly I was always designed to be the front man but I didn’t want to be the front man, I was trying to stay away from it. So the James Brown movie and the experience with all the directors and actors and you are on this big roller coaster and you think ‘Man, how can I keep experiencing this?’ and the only way you can keep experiencing this is to step out on your own and make it happen for yourself. So that was one of the biggest things for me and since then I haven’t turned back. I play the character of James Brown’s guitarist Jimmy Nolen. Jimmy was with James Brown for a good while and he was famous for his chicken scratch sound which he invented and was on all the James Brown music and on some of his biggest hits like Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag and Payback and all that stuff, that’s Jimmy Nolen playing lead guitar on there. It was a major role in the movie and counting it up I was in about twenty scenes. It was a definite blessing and we filmed from October 2013 until the end of January 2014.
Then I released my EP, which is called Gulf Coast Blues Boy in April of this year 2014. I’ve just been singing and playing ever since. There are seven tracks on there and it is all original material and I recorded and produced it myself. It’s selling real good for me and as soon as we released it I was shocked, as I’m this new guy coming out and it’s done well for me. It seems to being played on radio stations all over the US and Europe as well.
What made me decide on playing the blues is that I said to myself that if I had to choose any thing other than gospel music, because I come from a traditional gospel background, so blues is so traditional, gospel is so similar to hard core blues, and the soulfulness of the singing and stuff, it had to be blues. I’m a guitarist as well and, as I said, B.B. King was influential for me so if I had to choose, blues reminds me so much of traditional gospel. I’m just a soul singer, hard and heavy.
Blues wise, influences are B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, although he’s not technically blues, Marvin Sease the singer, and his singing and stage presence I took a lot from that, and of course James Brown.
I call myself The Gulf Coast Blues Boy and I have a band and I call them the Hi Def Soul Band and I normally at least have an eight piece band when I go out. I normally have three horns, two keyboards, bass and drums and I just added two background singers so making it a ten piece band. I like the big sound although it’s expensive. I’m out on the road a lot and have just finished doing a big festival in Mobile called Way Fest and opened for r&b artist K. Michelle and hip hop artist The Legendary Roots and I’m good friends with those guys. Next week I’m doing a festival in McComb, Mississippi so lots of things are starting to open up. I’m real patient to when it comes to putting myself out there. I will play anywhere and currently it is primarily down south. I try not to do regular clubs all of the time as people get tired of seeing you.
I’ve worked with Grady Champion and played with him at times but I’m not a regular member of his band. I’ve met a lot of artists on the road like Bobby Womack and Bobby Bland, Shirley Brown, Millie Jackson. I’ve met all these people and toured with them and stayed in the same hotels and have been blessed to do that. I have a video of Bobby Bland’s last show and it broke my heart when he died.
More recently I’ve recorded with Mel Waiters on his albums and I’ve recorded with Paul Beasley the gospel artist, he was the singer with Willie Neal Johnson And The Gospel Keynotes, the high singer. I produce artists as well at my studio. One girl I’m working with now is named Erica Washington and I’ve worked with a lot of hiphop artists. As a musician I play everything, not just blues. I do a little gospel but that comes and goes. I’m doing some stuff with an artist out of New York, his name is Greg Banks and I’ll be doing some features on his new album. I’m in talks with a female lead guitarist about doing some work together but I don’t want to spill the beans on that one as yet. A lot of things are starting to unfold for me.
Vocally my influences is hard to say, I’ve never really studied any one person. I absorb so much stuff, but one of the biggest things I took in vocally is Marvin Sease and B.B. King. As far as comparisons voice wise, I have a real soulful voice I can get soft and I’ve been know for my holler and squall when I’m singing, so I’ve heard I sound like Otis Redding and I’ve heard there’s some Howlin’ Wolf in me and Muddy Waters and different things I’ve been hearing about myself.
As for the future I’m going to get a new CD out and a future goal as a blues artist is to really try and bring blues back to where it used to be as a young artist and work with different artists and maybe work in some r&b and hip hop. There’s not a lot of blues in Mobile at present but when folks hear it they say ‘Oh my God, someone’s still doing it, thank you so much.’ They ask me how I know all this stuff being so young. I’m working on my new album right now. Since the acting thing with the James Brown thing, I’m still acting and right now I’m talking about doing some stage plays.
Interview, by Mike Stephenson, of this young Mobile, Alabama based singer, guitarist, songwriter and actor took place in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, October 2014. Many thanks go to Peggy Brown.